Author: Ajaya

How to get rid of aphids: aphid control & prevention

How to get rid of aphids: aphid control & prevention

There are many different ways to get rid of aphids. We will show you how to control aphids naturally and will demonstrate the advantages of organic aphid control methods. A single aphid is not a big problem; however, aphids tend to mass reproduce. As the…

Neem oil on plants: tips for using neem oil in the garden

Neem oil on plants: tips for using neem oil in the garden

Plant protection products based on neem oil can be used for natural pest control of aphids, spider mites and other plant pests. You can find out how to use neem oil to protect your plants here. Neem oil can be used in many ways. Its…

Evening primrose: growing, varieties & benefits

Evening primrose: growing, varieties & benefits

With its beautiful flowers, the common evening primrose steals the show from all the other plants in the garden. In this article, we will tell you what you need to consider when growing evening primrose and what are the benefits of using evening primrose.

When dusk falls in the evening, the common evening primrose (Oenothera biennis) unravels its beauty. In the twilight, the bright yellow blossoms are in stark contrast with the dimming light of the day. The flowers will also greet you in the morning and you will be able to enjoy the beauty of the evening primrose in daylight, too.

Evening primrose: origin & characteristics

The common evening primrose seems to fit into the native flora of Europe seamlessly. However, it has not always been so, because the evening primrose is a plant that has been introduced to the continent. It was only in the 17th century that the perennial was brought to Europe from North America as an ornamental plant. Garden bed borders and fences did not stop this plant and soon it conquered the entire Old World. Other representatives of the genus of evening primrose (Oenothera) did the same. Some of them were created by crossing, and soon numerous species of evening primrose enriched the European plant kingdom.

The common evening primrose is by no means inconspicuous. Growing tall, it reaches heights between 80 and 180 centimetres and sticks out well above many of its leafy neighbours. Underground, things are no different, because its fleshy taproot can grow as deep as the plant is tall. In the first year, however, the biennial plant presents itself quite inconspicuously. Its lanceolate leaves are initially arranged in rosettes on the ground. It is not until the following year that the main shoot sprouts, with a long inflorescence appearing at its tip from June onwards. The bright yellow and sweet-scented flowers bloom gradually from bottom to top. They attract numerous species of hawk moths as well as many other species of moths and butterflies. Among them is the hummingbird hawk moth (Macroglossum stellatarum), which, as the name suggests, is reminiscent of a hummingbird with its way of flight.

how to grow evening primrose
The gorgeous flowers of evening primroses attract numerous beneficial insects and pollinators [Shutterstock.com/Maren Winter]

If you are interested in what kinds of butterflies fly outside your window, have a look at our article on butterfly species that are native to Europe. If you are wondering what do butterflies eat, you can find the answer in this article.

The most beautiful evening primrose species

The common evening primrose is just one among many relatives in its genus. Together with about 200 other species it belongs to the genus called Oenothera. In Europe, there are about 30 species of these plants. The common evening primrose is probably the best known of these. Here are other interesting representatives of the evening primrose genus:

  • Large-flowered evening primrose (Oenothera glazioviana): This species is widespread and can reach a height of up to 2 metres. Its flowers are slightly larger than those of the other evening primroses. The main difference, however, lies in the red buds and the red dotted stem of this plant.
  • Narrow-leaved sundrop or narrowleaf evening primrose (Oenothera fruticosa/ Oenothera tetragona): Although the flowers of this species of evening primrose shine in a typical evening primrose yellow, the growth of the narrowleaf evening primrose is not straight and upright but rather branched. The flower stems of narrow-leaved sundrops reach heights of up to 70 cm.
  • Pinklady or pink evening primrose (Oenothera speciosa): The appearance of the pink evening primrose is completely different. Its growth is not upright but branched to the side. Its maximum size is 30 cm. The flowers go from whitish to pink. Unfortunately, this species is extremely hard to control and spreads easily.
  • Bigfruit evening primrose or Missouri evening primrose (Oenothera macrocarpa): This species does not grow taller than 30 cm and is perfect for planting in rockeries or alpine gardens. There, it forms a dense and lush carpet of yellow flowers.

Planting evening primrose

You can buy evening primrose either as young plants or in the form of seeds. Potted plants can be planted out from spring until summer. The plants are hardy, but should not be exposed to frost too soon, as they will probably have grown up in a greenhouse.

The perfect location for evening primrose

Although the evening primrose is incredibly diverse, all species found in Europe somehow prefer the same thing. Outside of gardens and plantations, wild evening primroses can be found mainly where other plants have a hard time growing. They colonise gravel banks, railway embankments and fallow land as well as old quarries. Because evening primroses love sandy and nutrient-poor soil, they like to grow in soil with some lime. Of course, sunshine is crucial for evening primroses. They can still cope with partial shade, though. Most importantly, the location for evening primroses should be dry and not damp in winter.

How to plant evening primrose properly

You can grow your evening primrose in a pot as well as out in the open air. If you plant several specimens, you should make sure to plant large species such as the common evening primrose at a sufficient planting distance of about 30 centimetres. This keeps the plant well aerated and fungi stand no chance in infesting it.

growing evening primrose
When growing evening primrose, make sure that the plant has enough space in the soil for its lengthy taproot [Shutterstock.com/Mariola Anna S]

Since evening primroses have deep roots, you should always use a deep flower pot when planting evening primroses in pots. The substrate in it should consist largely of sand. For example, you can mix normal garden soil with 30 to 50 percent sand.

  • Choose a deep planter
  • For substrate, mix garden soil with at least 30 % sand
  • Keep the planting distance in the garden bed (at least 30 cm between plants)

Growing evening primrose: tips for evening primrose plant care

Evening primroses are extremely resistant. It is not for nothing that they have so quickly made the European wilderness their own. In any case, the undemanding plants do not need a fertiliser. And you can largely save yourself the watering, because the plant doesn’t mind even long periods of drought. One step that we recommend not skipping when it comes to evening primrose plant care is pruning. A vigorous pruning in autumn or towards the end of winter stimulates early flowering.

Propagating evening primrose from seeds

Evening primroses produce an incredible number of very small seeds. For this reason, if you don’t want to find this rapidly reproducing plant all over the garden, don’t throw the cut flowers in the compost.

Sowing evening primrose is very easy. If you want the plant to grow as an annual, early sowing at the end of April or the beginning of May is recommended. Evening primroses sown in July or August, on the other hand, will not flower until next year.

When sowing you should remember that evening primrose seeds require light to germinate. Therefore, do not cover the seeds with soil at all or leave them just lightly dusted with some soil on top. After about 12 to 16 days the first seedlings will appear.

Once the plant is established and allowed to ripen, it will seed reliably and provide you with new plant for next year.

Propagating evening primrose from seeds in brief:

  • Evening primroses produce numerous seeds
  • Sowing in April/May or July/August
  • Evening primrose seeds require light to germinate

Are evening primroses poisonous?

Evening primrose is not poisonous at all. On the contrary: all of the parts of the common evening primrose can even be eaten as a vegetable. The plant can also be used in various naturopathic ways, which we will further explain in the following.

Evening primrose use & benefits

Evening primroses provide eye-catching spots of colour in your perennial garden bed, but they also attract various insects, such as moths, butterflies and bumblebees. For this reason, the evening primrose is an excellent source of food for butterflies and many other insects.

However, the common evening primrose is not just a delicious treat for the insects in the garden. You too can enjoy the plant with all your senses. The fleshy taproot, for example, can be harvested in autumn and prepared as a delicious root vegetable. In spring, the fresh leaves are ideal for salads. The highlight in summer are the edible, bright yellow flowers, which can decorate all sorts of dishes. The flowers look enchanting in home-made ice cubes, which can then be added into lemonades or cocktails.

There is still more that the evening primrose can offer. The oil from the seeds of the evening primrose has a soothing and anti-inflammatory effect on irritated skin. Dandruff, dry skin and even neurodermatitis can be soothed. Evening primrose oil is used to make excellent natural cosmetic products.

evening primrose oil
Evening primrose oil has calming effects on irritated skin [Shutterstock.com/Madeleine Steinbach]

The tea made from dried leaves, on the other hand, can counteract stomach and digestive problems. Even mood swings, moodiness and other signs that many people experience before their period are supposed to be calmed with evening primrose teas and extracts.

Growing climbing hydrangeas: tips on varieties, care & propagation

Growing climbing hydrangeas: tips on varieties, care & propagation

Everything about climbing hydrangea – from planting and propagation to different varieties, including expert advice on the toxicity and care of the climbing hydrangea – can be found in this article. Climbing hydrangeas (Hydrangea petiolaris) are becoming increasingly popular among hobbyist gardeners. And now wonder:…

Oxheart tomato: tips for cultivating the beef tomato

Oxheart tomato: tips for cultivating the beef tomato

Oxheart tomatoes are known for their large and fleshy fruits. In the following, we will explain what to pay attention to when planting and caring for oxheart tomatoes. Oxheart tomatoes are popular among many hobby-gardeners because they are low-maintenance and can grow enormous fruits. In…

Agapanthus: growth, care & varieties

Agapanthus: growth, care & varieties

African lilies have magnificent flowers. We will tell you what is important when planting lilies of the Nile and what you have to consider when caring for the agapanthus in terms of fertilising and watering.

The African lily (Agapanthus), also referred to as lily of the Nile or simply agapanthus, is a perfect fit for every garden that has room for a large flower pot. This plant forms enormous and impressive flowers, and yet is easy to care for. If this gorgeous plant is watered, fertilised and overwintered properly, it can live for many years and its gigantic flowers will decorate your terrace, balcony and garden for a long time. In this article, we will tell you everything you need to know about how to properly care for agapanthus. We discuss the origin of this plant, recommend varieties to plant and explain how to propagate the lily of the Nile.

Agapanthus: origin & characteristics

Agapanthus belongs to the amaryllis family (Amaryllidaceae). They occur naturally only in southern Africa, where their range extends from the coastal area to the mountains. Since the southern African climate differs in many respects from that of Europe and North America, the African lily is usually cultivated as a potted plant in milder climate zones.

The African lily grows as a perennial, which is either evergreen or deciduous, depending on the original species. This plant forms rhizomes as its organs of survival. The simple, parallel-veined leaves are basal, unstalked and grow in clusters. The rounded flower umbels are composed of mostly blue, purple or white coloured individual flowers. Depending on the variety, the blossom of the agapanthus can differ not only in colour but also in shape. Some African lilies bear flowers that are bell-shaped.

Agapanthus varieties

In total there are several hundred different varieties cultivated from different species of agapanthus, such as Agapanthus africanus or Agapanthus campanulatus (bell-shaped African lily). Depending on the species of origin, the flowers are differently shaped and coloured.

Here is a small selection of the most beautiful agapanthus varieties:

  • ‘Albus’: funnel-shaped, white flowers; deciduous
  • ‘Angela’: violet-blue, funnel-shaped flower; evergreen
  • ‘Black Buddhist’: large, purple-blue flowers; deciduous
  • ‘Blue Giant’: vibrant blue flowers; evergreen
  • ‘Northern Star’: intense, midnight-blue flowers; deciduous
  • ‘Silver Baby’: white flowers with light blue petal tips, small variety only 60 cm tall
  • ‘Sunfield’: small growth, funnel-shaped, light blue flowers; deciduous
  • ‘Twister’: white flowers with blue base; deciduous

Where & how to plant agapanthus

The best location for the African lily is as sunny as possible. As mentioned before, this plant has its origins in southern Africa and, therefore, it thrives best in light and warmth. Bright, semi-shady places can also do, but there should be at least a few hours of sunshine a day. We recommend choosing a spot that is sheltered from the wind.

The best agapanthus growing conditions in summary:

  • As sunny and warm as possible
  • Sheltered from the wind
  • Substrate: normal potting soil
  • Nutrient rich and permeable soil
  • Slightly alkaline pH value

Since agapanthus cannot overwinter outdoors in moderate climate zones, it should be planted in a pot or a container. As a planting substrate you can use normal potting soil available in your local gardening centre, mixed with some clay or sand if necessary. The substrate should also be permeable and rich in nutrients. Before planting, add some organic fertiliser with a long-term effect to the substrate to ensure a sustainable supply of nutrients to your African lily.

potted lily of the nile
Lilies of the Nile can be grown just as well in pots [Shutterstock.com/ingehogenbijl]

The pH value should be in the slightly alkaline range. It is important to always choose a plant container where excess water can run off. In addition, a drainage layer, for example a layer of gravel, can prevent waterlogging of the roots. Waterlogging can become a serious concern to the well-being of the agapanthus and can severely damage (if not kill) your plant.

How to plant agapanthus: a step-by-step guide:

  • Create a drainage layer with some gravel or similar
  • Enrich the substrate with a slow-release fertiliser
  • Fill the flower pot with substrate (up to one third of the pot)
  • Place the agapanthus plant in the middle of the pot
  • Fill the planter with more substrate
  • Water the plant well

Agapanthus care

All in all, the African lily is a very low-maintenance plant that grows quickly and vigorously without much effort. During flowering, however, it reacts sensitively to changes and should not be moved – especially not to a location with less light. Otherwise, a change of location is no problem. The plant should also be repotted as rarely as possible and only when the roots have no more room in the pot. Pests are usually no problem with African lilies in the home garden, as snails and caterpillars are not interested in the leaves of this exotic beauty. Luckily, fungal and bacterial infestation occur just as rarely as pests.

Depending on whether you have an evergreen or a deciduous agapanthus variety at home, there are some things you should be mindful of, especially over winter.

Fertilising agapanthus

Here again, agapanthus proves to be a perfectly low-maintenance plant, that does not have any unique demands on its fertilisation. The best fertilisers for agapanthus are those with a balanced NPK ratio and a sufficient mineral supply. For a strong and abundant flowering, the African lily should be fertilised from April until it begins to bloom.

Watering agapanthus

Agapanthus reacts much more sensitively to too much water than to too little. From April onwards, it should be watered regularly and sufficiently. The substrate in the pot should be moist, but never wet. It is only necessary to water the agapanthus again when the upper third in the pot feels completely dry. However, since the lily of the Nile can store water in its fleshy rhizome, it can survive several weeks without water. During the winter months from November to March it needs little or no watering.

Agapanthus care in summary:

  • Do not change location during flowering
  • Pests and diseases are rare with the agapanthus
  • Fertilise the agapanthus properly (best with a fertiliser with long-term organic effect during planting)
  • First fertilisation in April
  • Second fertilisation in summer before flowering
  • Better to water too little than too much
  • Avoid waterlogging
  • Water agapanthus very moderately in winter

Propagating agapanthus

The ornamental lily can be propagated relatively easily via offshoots. This is useful, for example, if the plant has become too large for its previous pot and needs to be repotted. The root ball can then be cut into several pieces with a sharp garden tool (depending on the size, a spade may also be necessary). The individual root pieces are then each planted in their own new pot. Another way to propagate agapanthus is to let the fruits ripen and harvest the seeds. In both cases, however, it takes some time before the African lily grows fully and flowers.

lily of the nile
Lilies of the Nile can also be propagated but it will take some time before the new plant blooms [Shutterstock.com/katacarix]

Is agapanthus poisonous?

In short, agapanthus is not poisonous. But: intensive contact with the plant sap can cause irritation of the skin. Moreover, the rhizome of the plant is poisonous to humans and animals if consumed. Therefore, gloves should be worn when propagating the agapanthus plant.

Pruning & pinching out tomato plants

Pruning & pinching out tomato plants

The pinching out of tomato shoots is a controversial topic among gardeners. We reveal when it makes sense to prune tomatoes and how to prune a tomato plant properly. Rarely does a topic divide tomato lovers as much as the removing of tomato side shoots.…

Green Zebra tomato: how to grow the green tomato variety

Green Zebra tomato: how to grow the green tomato variety

When does the Green Zebra ripen? What should you pay attention to when growing, caring for and harvesting these green tomatoes? We will tell you everything there is to know about the Green Zebra tomato. The tomato variety ‘Green Zebra’ is one of the best-known…

Cabbage white butterfly: detection & control

Cabbage white butterfly: detection & control

Is the caterpillar of the large cabbage white poisonous? What are the ways to treat this pest? Find all the answers in this article.

The diet of the cabbage white (also large cabbage white) butterfly consists primarily of the leaves of headed cabbage, cauliflower, green cabbage, kohlrabi and various other cabbage varieties that we prefer to end up on our plates. Although the butterfly is beautiful, do not be fooled by its looks, it really is not a pleasant visitor in the vegetable garden. The insatiable caterpillars will easily decimate whole garden beds full of cabbage, so an effective remedy is frequently sought after. We have compiled all the important information on cabbage white butterflies for you, so that nothing stands in the way of effective prevention and control.

Cabbage white butterfly

First, we will get to know the butterfly a little closer, so that it is clear what this species looks like. After that, the article provides information on the development and toxicity of the cabbage white. Then, we will go into detail about effective treatment measures including using household remedies, chemical products and natural methods.

What does cabbage white butterfly look like?

The following table describes the different stages of development of the cabbage white, its appearance and the damage pattern.

TaxonomyFamily Pieridae, Genus Pieris
OriginNorth Africa to Northern Europe
Forage plantsVarious cruciferous plants (Brassicaceae), which include our cultivated cabbage varieties, rarely other plants
EggsBright yellow, on the underside of the leaves of the forage plants
CaterpillarsGreen and yellow, with patterns of black spots; body is short and hairy, not more than 4 cm long
ButterfliesWhite and light yellow in colour, wingspan maximum 6.5 cm, the tip of the fore wings has a black mark; diurnal, pollinate various wild and garden plants
Pattern of damagePlant corrosion occurs; in case of strong infestation, skeletonization of whole leaves
PupaeAttached to the stems or leaves of plants

Are the caterpillars poisonous?

When eating cabbage plants, the caterpillars of the cabbage white plant absorb various substances that are poorly tolerated by humans in large quantities, such as mustard oil glycosides. These are digested during the metabolic processes of the caterpillars and toxic substances such as isothiocyanates are produced. These irritate mucous membranes and have negative effects on the production of thyroid hormones. The caterpillars of the cabbage white butterflies contain these isothiocyanates, making them inedible for many predators. The caterpillars themselves are immune to these substances. For humans, these substances are only toxic in large amounts. Touching (and possibly even eating) the caterpillars of the cabbage white is just as harmless as eating cabbage. Because even when we eat cabbage, various slightly toxic products occur when they are degraded by our metabolic processes.

Tip: What is the difference between the large cabbage white and small cabbage white butterfly? The large cabbage white butterfly (Pieris brassicae) and the small cabbage white butterfly (Pieris rapae) are at a first glance very similar. The main differences lie in their habitat, diet and feeding behaviour. Unlike its larger relative, the small cabbage white eats through cabbages and reaches the inner core of the plants. Other than on cabbage plants, it prefers to forage on various other crucifers, leeks, capers, iberis and rocket. Due to the broader food spectrum, the small cabbage white butterfly is somewhat more widespread than the large cabbage white butterfly, whose diet is more restricted. The large white butterfly sticks more strictly to cabbage plants. However, since damage and control are largely the same with both species, no distinction is made between them in the following.

Development of the cabbage white butterfly

In temperate climate zones, two to four generations occur every year, the first butterflies fly between April and June, the last in October at the latest. After laying the eggs, it takes about 14 days for the caterpillars to hatch. The small caterpillars then make their way over to the leaves of the forage plant. The main damage usually occurs in June and July. After three to four weeks of eating, the caterpillars pupate. The last generation hibernates in this form.

Preventing a cabbage white infestation

An infestation can be prevented by taking some simple precautionary measures:

  1. Plant mixed crops instead of one variety of cabbage (which is more likely to be infested).
  2. Maintain crop rotation in your garden.
  3. Plants with a strong scent drive pests (including the cabbage white) away from the garden bed. Thyme, mugwort, aniseed, tansy, sage, peppermint, tomatoes and extracts from these plants are great pest repellents.
  4. Supporting native wildlife reduces the likelihood of a pest infestation. Many songbirds prey on the butterflies, while native ichneumon wasps parasitize on the caterpillars and eggs.
  5. Look for eggs under the leaves of the potential forage plants as soon as you spot the white butterflies in your garden. Early recognition will prevent a heavy infestation.
  6. Collecting eggs and caterpillars manually can be a simple treatment if the infestation is small.
  7. Protect the vegetables with nets before the butterflies first fly in spring. The size of the mesh should not exceed two millimetres and the nets should not have any holes.

Tip: If you missed the time of the first flight of the butterflies, you can still use the nets to partially shield the plants. But, additionally, collect any eggs or caterpillars and also use other methods of treatment.

Getting rid of cabbage white butterflies

You can combat the cabbage white butterfly with household, chemical or natural products.

large cabbage white caterpillars
The green caterpillars of the large cabbage white butterfly can cause significant damage to cabbage crops [Shutterstock.com/ Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH]

Natural control of cabbage white butterflies

There are two possible ways to treat cabbage white butterflies naturally. One way of treatment is using beneficial organisms; other possibility entails the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis. As a general rule, the earlier the methods of control are implemented, the less damage will be done to your plants. A possible additional obstacle is that the caterpillars of the small cabbage white also eat their way inside the cabbage heads and from a certain point are no longer accessible. Therefore, it is vital to start treatment immediately.

There are several species of beneficial insects, that can be used in the battle against cabbage butterflies. First, the white butterfly parasite Cotesia glomerate preys on the caterpillars of the large cabbage white. This predatory insect prefers the species Pieris brassicae above all else. The small cabbage white butterfly has an arch nemesis of its own: Cotesia rubecula. Both of the parasitic species are used by professionals to control cabbage white butterflies, but are unfortunately hardly available to private users. However, both of the beneficial insects are native to Europe and are attracted by the smell of cabbage. Therefore, by making your garden as insect-friendly as possible, you will promote beneficial organisms that will help you in the battle against pests.

The ichneumon wasps of the genus Trichogramma target the eggs of the both cabbage white species. Various species of the predatory wasps are commercially available. The Trichogramma species lay their own eggs close to those of the butterflies. The wasp larvae, that hatch from their eggs, then feed on the contents of butterfly eggs.

Note: Unfortunately, the use of parasitic wasps in the field is often not efficient. The small wasps migrate, are driven away by strong winds or eaten by other insects and birds. However, using them in greenhouses has proven to be significantly more effective.

Insecticides based on Bacillus thuringiensis are impressive natural agents to use in the field. The bacterium comes in a water-soluble powder, that upon mixing with water can be used as a spray. The spray is applied to the forage plants of the cabbage white. If the plants grow or it rains, the application should be repeated. And how exactly do these products work? The bacterial spores are absorbed by the caterpillars when they feed. The intestines of the butterflies contain certain enzymes, that unfold the toxic abilities of the bacterium. Importantly, the bacterium only works against cabbage white butterfly, and therefore, other non-target species are protected.

Chemical control of cabbage white butterflies

The gardening market offers various chemical products that are recommended to use against cabbage white in the home garden. Many commercially available agents use the active substance azadirachtin, which comes from the neem tree and is harmful to various insects – most of which are beneficial insects. Some products contain pyrethrin that is also detrimental to beneficial species. Other products, which are also often approved for home gardens, contain cyhalothrin which is deadly to bees. We assume that no responsible garden owner wants to pollute their garden with any of these toxins, so we will stop right here.

Household remedies against cabbage white butterflies

Unfortunately, in case of a serious infestation, household remedies are not enough to salvage your cabbage harvest. For this reason, we recommend using preventative measures at an early stage, as described above. Since butterflies and caterpillars occur during the entire growing season, you can protect your plants with the preventative and natural methods described above throughout the whole cultivation period.

Types of beans: robust, heirloom & new varieties

Types of beans: robust, heirloom & new varieties

Beans are enormously diverse. From old heirloom bean varieties to newly cultivated ones: there is a lot to discover! If you want to grow beans in your own garden and are therefore looking for the right variety, you should first decide which type of beans…